One of you

I am not one of you because I cannot find my feet. 

I want to stand proud, but I’m too quick to admit defeat. 

I want to be just like you; you’re so self-assured, 

Thinking about my own life, I can tell you, I just get bored. 

I hate my selfish, self-centred ways. 

I hate them, but I cannot change them. 

That is what I am. 

Love is the most important thing in my life, 

But I haven’t got a clue. 

I’m lost and crying. 

Dying. 

Now I’m lying. 

I want love and I want to give away love, 

And they say love isn’t love til you give it away. 

But what I want is more than that. How do you say? 

I guess it doesn’t matter how you say it. 

I’m bored of being alone. 

I hate my empty heart. 

I can hate myself more than the world can, 

But it’s the world that makes me hate myself. 

They ignore me; I hate myself. I wish I’d never spoken. 

They laugh at me; I hate myself. That stupid, stupid book. 

I find myself on my own; I hate myself. 

I brought this on myself. 

You are so, so confident. I feel like death. 

You have so much to say. I feel like a brick. 

I am not one of you because I feel so empty. 

I’m sitting in the dark. I feel like nothing. 

Rejection hurts me. It makes me hate myself. 

I am not one of you, because I cannot find my feet. 

Wake up and smell the coffee

I looked him in the eye and he said no. Good. I needed that. I asked him why and he just smiled and winked his eye. That wasn’t an answer. I wanted an answer, not a smile and a wink. I turned around and saw a hole in reality. A huge gap. A gap where there was nothing. Just. Nothing.

There was a reason, but it was pink. And as anyone knows, a reason that is a colour helps nobody. It means nothing. The reason was pink and my life was purple, so if the floor stayed green and the door blue I was sure that everything was insane. Drink. Eat. Die.

Smile.

I turned back to the man. “Why?” I asked. He winked again and nodded his head towards the hole. Then he said, “Minty fresh” and left me. What did that mean? Life is like a Polo mint? Insane.

I stepped into the hole and now everything was nothing and nothing was everything. Everything had become the gap and the gap had become everything. It was yellow and my mind was mellow. Inside, the rain. Outside, the pain.

I drank the coffee. The coffee was me. It screwed the world, but who cares? It would be my brother who’d say, “Wake up and smell the coffee.” But what he’d mean is something quite different: Get a life. Pull yourself together.

That’s what he’d mean.

If he ever came home.

Now smell the coffee. Smooth aroma. Taste it. Drink it. Live it. In debt. Cash crop. Poverty. Death.

In this other reality; through the gap, there was a man. A tall African, farming man. But he wasn’t farming when I saw him. His face was buried deep in his hands and he was sobbing empty tears. “Your actions are illegal.” I heard. I heard a voice behind me, shouting. Yelling. Shouting at the man.

Coffee. Debt. Death.

I couldn’t stand it there, so I stepped back into the other reality. Reality. Hole. Gap. Whatever. I stepped back into the place where I was comfortable. The man was there again, as though he had never left. It seemed too familiar. Like I’d done this before. It seemed too familiar. Like I’d done this. I looked him in the eye and he said no. I was kind of expecting that. Somehow. I asked him why and he just smiled at me and winked.

I shouted at him.

I screamed.

Balled.

“Don’t wink. Don’t smile. What’s going on?”

“I thought you’d never ask.” he replied, as though he hadn’t heard me the last three hundred times, when the hole became everything and everything, nothing.

“Kenya, right?” he said, almost like a robot, “Debts, yeah? Coffee plantations. Grow  coffee. Sell coffee. Man, right? Hungry, lives, sleeps. Food to live. Land to grow food. Need land. No land. Only coffee land. Eat. Drink. Man chops down coffee bush to grow food, while debts cut down man to grow profit. Illegal to chop down bushes to use the land for food production. Income from coffee pays back debts.”

“Does it?” I asked.

“I doubt it.” he said. “Come with me,” he said, “I’ll buy you a coffee.”

What’s on your mind

Naive. That’s me. Naive to the point that I didn’t expect rumours and gossip at University. Naive to the point that I believed that there would be a certain air of openness and accepting. Naive to hope that I would not be ostracised. Quite naive.

I admit, I bring a lot of this upon myself, but only up to a point. If I want to be silent from time to time, that’s my business. If I decide to give people things, that’s my business too; it doesn’t mean anything.

Yet, however naive I may be, I sense a certain naivety in others. A misinterpretation of gestures. A smile means “Hi, I’m happy,” not “Why, you’re mighty fine!”

Dedicated conversation to one person means, “I’m interested in what you have to say,” not “I can’t wait to jump into bed with you.”

But now, apparently, just looking at someone means that you want to go out with them.

Naive? What’s on your mind?

Statement

What I say

What I do.

They say don’t put yourself down.

Do I put myself down?

I’m just stating a fact.

I’m just making a statement.

They don’t really know me.

They think what they see 

Is what they get.

But it isn’t.

I don’t know me very well

But I know me better than they do

And I don’t like what I see.

They say don’t put yourself down

So they want to see the real me.

But then they would hate me

Selfish me.

I hate like anybody else.

I love and I admire,

But my mind is twisted

And broken in two.

I always think of me.

Me. Me. Me.

I’m not putting myself down.

I’m just stating a fact.

The political bore

I’m bored of the arrogant bastard

With the verbal diarrhoea.

(A friend’s words, not mine,

But I agree)

He says a lot, all the time.

He says a lot, 

But it sounds like shit to me.

He is happy to offend you,

If you’re out of the room.

And smile or nod if you’re there.

Sometimes he’ll even show his disapproval to your face

If the time is right. (Very often, it seems, to me)

He’s happy to offend;

Make you feel two foot tall.

Trouble is, what he says,

He’s probably right.

Well, he said so.

Nothing

The man behind the bar said he could tell what any man was like

Just by looking at him.

Well he got me wrong.

He thinks I am nothing,

Just like you do.

He said he is never wrong.

Well, perhaps he’s right;

Based on your beliefs.

Like you think anyone who doesn’t drink beer

Is a loser.

Like you think that anyone who doesn’t speak up

Has nothing to say.

Like you think I’m nothing.

Get a life.

You say.

You mean,

Be like me.

You think anyone who’s not like you

Has no life.

Get a life,

You say.

Because you think I am nothing?

I am not nothing.

Reading writing

I couldn’t understand what he was talking about, but it sure sounded cool. I knew he had all my money in his future and that was red. Red like a London Bus. Did he understand me? I shouldn’t think so. Give me a pint of petrol I said. He didn’t understand that. Well why would he? He was from a different reality from the one I knew. Outside the sky was green. Inside it was pink. Smile and the whole world falls apart. 

We passed her outside the station, but she didn’t recognise us. She didn’t even notice us. She was locked in a world some place else. Well forget you, we thought. Was it something I said? Probably. Saw her again. I knew what I wanted to say; just to check she was alright. She looked lost, but I said nothing. I did nothing. Me in my stupor. 

None of your business. I was only asking. So? You didn’t look very happy. Do I have to smile all day long?

It would have ended there.

Probably.

I said nothing and I walked away. I think I messed up. Messed up big time, as they say. Who? I don’t know, but I’ve heard it said. Messed up with these people I’ve met. Getting too comfortable with them. Enjoying their company too much. Admiring them too much. Never admire. Admiration is bad.

So it seems. 

I shouldn’t have said I thought one of them was cool, because now they think I’m a loser. Probably think I want more than friendship. The price you pay when you admit your respect. Let me have a blue tongue and gold lips. Let me be someone else. I could be anyone they wanted me to be, but they say, “stay as you are”. Well I will, but only if that means I get something out of it.

I suppose he has a point, but I’m still lost. I want to share my writing. I want to hide it too. I hate my book, and I love it. Did I do it all in the name of pity or is it just this song corrupting my views? Who cares? I feel like it’s all patronising. Have I read it too many times? Is it too familiar or what? It drives me crazy. What can I do?

Relax and let anyone read it? Perhaps that’s the only way to settle my mind. But I don’t want to lose people. I guess if they don’t like it, then they wouldn’t really like me anyway. No point in pretending. The sky’s not green anymore. Now it’s purple and I feel insecure. My mind plays tricks on me. Something plays tricks on my mind. Honesty. The truth.

But I don’t know what the truth is. And will I ever? Not the ways things are going, because I don’t have the guts to let anyone read my work. What will they think of me. It’s like a horror movie. That’s patronising. That’s offensive. That’s sad. That’s embarrassing. That’s a cliche. 

A message under the door. How embarrassing. Why the hell did I leave my folder on the kitchen table and my depressed note, “everything I write is patronising”? It slipped my mind. Now my head is filled with guilt; like I’m using my friends as a counselling service. The reply: “empathy is not patronising”. I had to look empathy up in the dictionary. Well, what can I say?

Everything I write comes from experience. I cheat. My imagination is limited. I rearrange experiences. I stitch together what I know and I write it all down. Still feel lost. Still feel ill. I’ll let him read it first. He seems to know the world better than I do. And I trust him. If he doesn’t like it, he will tell me. Fine. Read it.

Peaches came from a can. They were put there by a man, in a factory down town. Flow like a song. Be cool. Medicine. Bother. Forgot. Wait one minute.

Sod it.

Listen to that thumping bass. I don’t want nothing. I mean, I want something. Yes, not nothing. I can be such a dog. And I try to justify everything I do. Oh hell. Why can’t I just relax and stop thinking? I’m boring and I’m a dog. Great. I’m sorted then.

Paranoia strikes me again.

Let me out.

My brain is squidgy. I’m going to have an omelette.

This

I couldn’t understand what he was talking about, but it sure sounded cool. I knew he had all my money in his future and that was red. Red like a London Bus. Did he understand me? I shouldn’t think so. Give me a pint of petrol I said. He didn’t understand that. Well why would he? He was from a different reality from the one I knew. Outside the sky was green. Inside it was pink. Smile and the whole world falls apart.

We passed her outside the station, but she didn’t recognise us. She didn’t even notice us. She was locked in a world some place else. Well forget you, we thought. Was it something I said? Probably. Saw her again. I knew what I wanted to say; just to check she was alright. She looked lost, but I said nothing. I did nothing. Me in my stupor.

None of your business. I was only asking. So? You didn’t look very happy. Do I have to smile all day long?

It would have ended there.

Probably.

I said nothing and I walked away. I think I messed up. Messed up big time, as they say. Who? I don’t know, but I’ve heard it said. Messed up with these people I’ve met. Getting too comfortable with them. Enjoying their company too much. Admiring them too much. Never admire. Admiration is bad.

So it seems.

I shouldn’t have said I thought one of them was cool, because now they think I’m a loser. Probably think I want more than friendship. The price you pay when you admit your respect. Let me have a blue tongue and gold lips. Let me be someone else. I could be anyone they wanted me to be, but they say, “stay as you are”. Well I will, but only if that means I get something out of it.

I suppose he has a point, but I’m still lost. I want to share my writing. I want to hide it too. I hate my book, and I love it. Did I do it all in the name of pity or is it just this song corrupting my views? Who cares? I feel like it’s all patronising. Have I read it too many times? Is it too familiar or what? It drives me crazy. What can I do?

Relax and let anyone read it? Perhaps that’s the only way to settle my mind. But I don’t want to lose people. I guess if they don’t like it, then they wouldn’t really like me anyway. No point in pretending. The sky’s not green anymore. Now it’s purple and I feel insecure. My mind plays tricks on me. Something plays tricks on my mind. Honesty. The truth.

But I don’t know what the truth is. And will I ever? Not the ways things are going, because I don’t have the guts to let anyone read my work. What will they think of me. It’s like a horror movie. That’s patronising. That’s offensive. That’s sad. That’s embarrassing. That’s a cliche.

A message under the door. How embarrassing. Why the hell did I leave my folder on the kitchen table and my depressed note, “everything I write is patronising”? It slipped my mind. Now my head is filled with guilt; like I’m using my friends as a counselling service. The reply: “empathy is not patronising”. I had to look empathy up in the dictionary. Well, what can I say?

Everything I write comes from experience. I cheat. My imagination is limited. I rearrange experiences. I stitch together what I know and I write it all down. Still feel lost. Still feel ill. I’ll let him read it first. He seems to know the world better than I do. And I trust him. If he doesn’t like it, he will tell me. Fine. Read it.

Peaches came from a can. They were put there by a man, in a factory down town. Flow like a song. Be cool. Medicine. Bother. Forgot. Wait one minute.

Sod it.

Listen to that thumping bass. I don’t want nothing. I mean, I want something. Yes, not nothing. I can be such a dog. And I try to justify everything I do. Oh hell. Why can’t I just relax and stop thinking? I’m boring and I’m a dog. Great. I’m sorted then.

Paranoia strikes me again.

Let me out.

My brain is squidgy. I’m going to have an omelette.

Ignorant

People who are racist are ignorant. Sometimes people who talk about racism are ignorant too. 

One day the coolest hip-hopper alive tells us she wants to bring hip-hop to the masses; to bring it down to the people, away from the world that we’ve seen before of gangstas, drug dealers and street violence. We listen and we admire. Another day she tells us that she’d rather have no white people buy her records and not be number one. And I say to myself: what a wonderful world. Be blunt, why not? It’s your reality.

So what do you think of me? You only want me to say what you want to hear. Is that the score? Do you want me to confess that I am eternally evil because I am white? Because that is what you implied when you said what you did. I think we are all pretty much agreed that racism towards black people is wrong. So why is racism towards white people acceptable? Because we are ignorant of what racism actually is?

Racism. A belief in the superiority of a particular race. Not: Racism: a belief in the superiority of white people. But that is what many people tell me that racism is; white people picking on other races. In the past I have criticized white racists, but when I would hear a black person being racist towards me, a joke or a passing remark, I would say, “It doesn’t bother me.”

What kind of crap is that? Is that like turning my well meant criticism into a meaningless, two-faced gesture? Racism hurts you, racism stings you; I understand that, but do it to me and I say, “It doesn’t bother me.” You start to see a hole in my thinking. Things are falling through.

I don’t do that any more. I don’t accept any form of racism. The racism of minority group towards a majority group is no more acceptable that of a majority towards a minority. It is just wrong. What we believe might be based upon the time in which we are living, or on the beliefs of the people with whom we associate. What we believe might be based upon popular opinion, but these things do not automatically deem it to be accurate. Racism is not exclusive and it is never acceptable.

None of us enjoys being judged based on one variable. Even based on two or three. Or… well, my skin colour. My hairstyle. The way I walk. The way I talk. There’s more to all of us than that. 

I presume.

“But you’re all the same…” “People like you…” 

Don’t judge me.

Don’t group me because I really don’t believe in labels, like I don’t believe in packages. Like I don’t believe in uniformity. Summarise and generalise; institutionalise for public consumption. I don’t think so. We all know that racism is based upon these summaries and generalisations. 

Every single human being is different.

Sticky Back Labels

He told me I was the blackest white man he had ever met
Because I listened to reggae?
Or danced to the hip-hop beat?
A nice idea, perhaps he thought,
Put blackness in a package?
I think he bought his stereotyped ideas,
When he tried to lose his cultural baggage.

“Oh, individuality. Don’t bother me with that,
I’ve got this definition, it came free with my flat:
Reggae music, pidgin English and wearing baggy jeans.
Never working, always dancing. Always super cool.”

Your definition, I think you’ll find, is incredibly flawed,
But don’t mind me. Carry on. I’m used to being ignored.
But how could I be the blackest white man he had ever met?
He told me underneath this thin skin, hides another man.
Another man, a different man. A different, non-white man.

You define and you stereotype,
But do you ever face the truth?
Define to me my blackness.
Define to me my whiteness.
Blackness?
Whiteness?
Blackness?
Whiteness?
I cannot feel blackness.
I do not feel whiteness.

The world passes me by and I cannot get on board.
He said I was the blackest white man he had ever met.
Had he sensed discomfort in my narrow, white life?
Was he giving me the shiny key to help me to escape?
I don’t believe him. What he said. I don’t believe at all.
What I do, or what I read, does not define who I am.

I read Martin Luther King,
But does that define who I am?
I listen to Lucky Dube,
Does anyone give a damn?
I criticize the racists,
But does that define who I am?
I dance to hip-hop music,
And who can give a damn?

You have trouble defining me,
Sticking a label on my face.
I’m not like all the others, you say.
Oh good, let’s all face the truth.
I’m not like all the others?
Well, alone, is all I feel.
I’m not like all the others?
Alone is all I feel.

Prove to me your theory:
That I am not so sugar white.
But I will tell you my theory:
My blackness is just my guilt,
A legacy of this society,
I am born to live in guilt.
Let this blackness hide reality,
Hide the colour of my skin.
Let me speak in pidgin,
You know the kind of thing.

Hide my guilty conscience,
That society has given to me.
Praise Nelson Mandela,
Buy the Bob Marley CD,
And get that shiny badge:
“I understand completely”

Yeah right? I understand?
I understand nothing.
You think I understand your feelings?
Barely understand my own.

The individual in me, cries out,
My mind is not like yours.
That is the reason. My reason, why
Why I don’t believe your definitions:
Blackness?
Whiteness?
Blackness?
Whiteness?
The black experience?

For my mind is not like your’s.
So your mind is not like mine.
And your’s is different from the next man’s.
So why do you define?

It would cheer me up, perhaps he thought,
When he told me he thought I was black.
Because I look so miserable in my own birth skin.
Or perhaps he thought it would give me a lift,
When he told me that I am not really white.
After all, why blame him? All that regret.
And all that remorse. Lift it off. Yes lift it up.
Take the burden from my shoulders.
Lift it away and off.
Tell me that it was all a dream,
My skin has his pigments too.

Do you still think I am the blackest white man you have ever met?
Define me and my manner. Define who I am.
Oh look, there’s another thing.
Tell me that I am black. Then the jokes won’t hurt so much.
When they slip down off your tongue.
I am sure the reverse is true.
I’ve heard the racist jokes,
And the white man ends and says,
“Oh, sorry my friend, I don’t mean you.”
“Well that’s what I’d expect from a white man,
No offence, of course, Tim!”

No offence? Define me.
Categorize who I am. Put me on a shelf.

I knew they would come in useful.
These little sticky back labels.
Peel it back and stick it on.
Define me as the white man who isn’t really white.
Justify your criticism: He does not care.
He understands me. He knows how I feel.
Yeah right? Sure.
How can I understand you, if you do not speak to me?

But why don’t I just accept it? What you think of me.
I’ll keep your definition? Let you define me?

I don’t believe in labels,
And careful little packages.
If you define me, maybe I will define you.
Your life, your ambitions, your pride and your prejudice?
Are they the same as your father’s? Or your sister’s?
Your brother’s or your aunt’s?
Can you be defined? Can I be defined?

He turned to me and laughed. And said,
You’re the most ungrateful little loser I have ever met.
Well lucky me, there’s the truth.
The label was a gift.

Trying not to conform, to conform 

I lied about what I believe in 

Because I was bored of agreeing with everything she said. 

I said I didn’t believe in marriage. I said it was dead. 

I lied because I was bored of looking like a follower, 

I was bored of looking like I was doing everything to please her. 

I made a statement, but it wasn’t one of mine. 

I suppose that makes two of us; we both told lies. 

I made a loud statement 

Because I wanted them to turn to me, 

Something I had no opinion of. Something I couldn’t see. 

I was seeking attention, self-centred me. 

I see them watching my great friend and I wish that he was me. 

I argued with my friend, but really I agreed with him. 

You’re selfish, man. You’re selfish. You’re selfish stupid Tim. 

I wanted to be more than what they think of me. 

I wanted to be more that what they see. 

I wanted to show them my independence, 

But with everything they said, I found myself, 

Honestly, having to agree. 

I felt like a copy cat. I felt like a nobody. 

I wanted them to see that I am not what they think. 

I tried. I lied. I failed. I am what they think. 

You think I am nothing, 

Therefore I am. 

Finale

To be continued, 

They say. 

But it never turns out very good. 

My book: finished. Done. 

Shall I put it away? 

Hide it away? 

What would you do if you think people will hate it? 

They’ll hate me too. 

Because they know who I am. 

I’m not anonymous. 

I can’t hide away. 

Shall I put it away? 

Because I’m worried. 

That is why 

I am shy 

To let you read my book. 

I am worried it will offend you. 

I am worried it will patronise you. 

I am worried it will hurt you. 

That is why 

I am shy. 

That is why 

I cry. 

Read it? I don’t know. 

It’s up to you 

What you do. 

As far as I’m concerned, it’s done. 

This is where it ends. 

I wrote,  

that is all. 

The curtain falls. 

My part is done. 

Mistrust

The scene opens in a white room, where the only furniture is a couch and a stool. Tim is lying back on a couch. The Questioner is sitting at his head, on a stool. Tim has his eyes closed, while the Questioner asks him questions.

Questioner: “Do you know why you’re here?”

Tim: “Yes.”

Questioner: “Tell me.”

Tim: “I am suspicious of my best friend.”

Questioner: “In what way?”

Tim: “I don’t believe he wants to know me. I’m too weak. I make all the effort.”

Questioner: “What makes you suspicious?”

Tim: “He seems distant.”

Questioner: “But he always compliments you. He keeps telling you that he is your best friend. Why can’t you see that?”

Tim: “I’m a pessimist. I’m too stupid. I’ve trusted too much in the past and been let down. Now I am suspicious of people telling me that they are my friends.”

Questioner: “So it’s not really about your best friend, is it?”

Tim: “No.”

Questioner: “It’s just about you and the rest of the world.”

Tim: “Yes.”

Questioner: “What has happened?”

Tim: “People push me to the outside. I had friends, but they all decided they wanted to join chess club. I didn’t like chess. I should have taken the hint, but I trusted them too much. When I got used to it, started getting to like it, they stopped going to chess club. They went to photography club instead. There were only five people allowed in the darkroom at a time. I was number six. I should have taken the hint, but I trusted them too much. I used to walk around the school. Round and round. Pretending that I was doing something, but everyone knew that I was just alone. And I knew that everyone knew that I was just alone. I left that school. I trusted my friends too much, but they just rejected me. So I rejected them and went away for a new start.”

Questioner: “But not everyone was like that.”

Tim: “No. IH was my best friend at that school. We both left at the same time. But he used to spend time with JG. They told me it was nothing private, but the rest of the world told me to leave them alone. I was pushed out again. I was suspicious that he was just telling me it was nothing private because he didn’t want to hurt my feelings. So round and round again. ‘Oh look,’ they’d say ‘it’s Billy Nomates.’ People pushed me away from my friends.”

Questioner: “And this makes you suspicious?”

Tim: “My best friend is so much better than me. Everyone loves him. People who were like me, rejected me. How can someone so different from me, so much greater than me, want to know me? That is why I am suspicious.”

Questioner: “But what about your other friends?”

Tim: “They say I’m great. I was always the stupid one, the weak one. But they say I’m great. I’m not that suspicious of them. I trust them. I don’t have to make an effort with them, they just keep on encouraging me.”

Questioner: “And your best friend doesn’t?”

Tim: “Of course he does, but it feels different. He seems tired. I’m the one who rings up or goes to see him. When he went away he did not have any contact with me. When I saw him walking in town I got angry with him, because he never bothered to contact me. Just to say he was back. I don’t like being suspicious, but it felt like chess club all over again.”

Questioner: “Is it because of loneliness?”

Tim: “I think it is everything. I depend on people too much. I turn people, who are just acting like friends towards me, into saints. Because of bad experiences in the past. Then I get too high expectations of them. They’re all just people. Love. Rejection. Guilt. Loneliness. Regret. Mistrust.”

Questioner: “You are frightened that you will be locked out in the cold again, aren’t you?”

Tim: “I am frightened that people are lying to me. I am frightened that one day they will admit to me, ‘We just felt sorry for you.’ I don’t want pity, I want true friendship.”

Questioner: “But you have that. You must forget the past. You must look at what you have now.”

Tim: “The past haunts me each time I look in the mirror. I have few friends and many enemies. I am scared that, when I don’t hear from friends for ages, they have done the photography club trick on me again. I enjoy good company, but I spend my life on my own. How can I not be suspicious?”

Questioner: “Because they tell you that you are great. When did those other people ever tell you that? Listen with your ears, not with your memories.”

The image freezes like a photograph, then a hand in a pair of rubber gloves grab the corner of the image (now a physical photograph) and dips it into liquid in a plastic dish in a darkroom. The image on the paper fades out (i.e. developing a picture in reverse) The rubber gloves pick the blank photographic paper out of the dish and hangs it on a drying line. The scene fades out to black and the titles roll.

Six Confessions of a Tortured Soul

  1. Nightmares
  2. Rejection
  3. Guilt
  4. Mistrust
  5. Loneliness
  6. Regret

Part four, 12 March 1996.